Tuesday, August 25, 2009

High-rise Condo Life

Earlier someone asked me to let them know what I thought about living in a high-rise condo. I never thought I would say this but I could live in a high-rise condo. I don't think I could have said that five years ago. Now we have stayed in a friend's condo for a couple of months and we have been renting another condo for the last two months so I can speak from experience. Here is what I'd be looking for if we were going to buy a high-rise condo.

Just like when you are buying a house the most important thing is location, location, location. Both of the condos we have stayed in are close to family, friends and restaurants and places we like to frequent.

We would find a building that has the level of services that would make us comfortable. That means security, maintenance and some offer some personal services as well such as changing out a high light bulb or taking groceries or packages to the condo. These things might be a nice feature if you are living alone or a little shaky on a ladder. we would definitely want more than a body at the desk 24/7. We would want a staff that has been around for a while and knows the owners.

Some condos seem to have been built with the idea that the owner would only be heating soup so they have a minimal kitchen. Both of the ones that we have been in had small gallery kitchens. But I've looked on-line and there are condos with "real" kitchens. One drawback is that all the condos I've looked at have electric kitchens. I would miss my gas cook top.

We would pay attention to where our parking spot would be and how we would get "stuff" to our condo. One of the condos was quite convenient and we could even get assistance from the staff if we needed it. The other one hasn't been as convenient.

Not all condos have a balcony. We want a balcony. One large enough to have a little container garden although if you travel a lot that could be a problem to keep watered.

Along with the balcony, we want a view of the city. We love looking out at the weather and the lights at night.

It seems to be easier to find a maid for 1/2 days or two times a month when you are in a condo. I think some maids work for a number of people in the condo so that they end up with a full schedule.

We think it is easy to travel from a high-rise condo. Lock it up and go. You have security and someone collecting the mail.

We would want a condo that is totally owned by individual condo owners that has restrictions about the owners leasing them out. Long term rentals would be okay but short-term rentals would not. The reason I say this is because we are currently in a building where about one-half of the units are owned by a management company and they rent the condos out for short-term rentals, like us. This means that there is a lot of turn over so you don't always know the neighbors. Also if the management company owns the majority of condos, then individual owners don't really have any control over the building.

We would get a good grip on condo fees and what they cover. The regular fee is pretty easy to determine but the hidden issue is assessments if long term maintenance dollars have not been put aside over time. For example, the owners might be facing a significant assessment for repair and updating of the various systems in the building like elevators if sufficient funds have not been set aside.

Is there something else you want to know about high-rise condo living that I haven't answered? Ask away.


glorv1 said...

You pretty much covered it all. I take it you are in the market for a high rise condo. I like the descriptions you gave. I didn't hear fireplace, though.
Thx for sharing your thoughts. Have a great Wednesday.

Billie said...

Gloria, We are not in the market for a condo but if we moved back to the USA sometime in the future, we would certainly consider one. Fireplaces are so useless in Houston. You do see them in Houses but I haven't seen one in a high-rise condo except those that are very upper-end penthouses.

billow said...

What about the height? Are you concerned about the idea of being too high above the ground? What about electricity going out or a fire?

What about trash, garbage or recycling?

Thanks. I've alwys wodered about theses things.

Felipe said...

Back in 1995 I lived in a 20th-floor apartment in downtown Houston. It had a nice balcony. Great place to live.

Calypso said...

I am more of a country boy (do they have condos in the country?). I haven't lived in that kind of situation (apartment or condo) since I was young and more of the problem than the solution - but what about noise?

When you are surrounded by walls a joining the lives of as many as six other families - I have to wonder.

Of course coming from Mexico where noise is a free for all I should be used to any of that - but I don't want to live in a space where I hear the neighbors toilet being flushed or where I become aware of a neighbor having a cold by nature of listening to them sneeze a lot.

And beside that what about my oh so important music (read LOUD sound system)?

Billie said...

Bill, While I might not want the penthouse, I would like to be high enough to look over the city...10 to 15th floor. The two condos we have been in have sprinklers everywhere, even in the closets. Of course walking down 15 flights of stairs might not be great, but I could do that. I'd would definitely look into what backup generators a condo might have. A hurricane that knocked out electricity for several weeks would probably send me packing but then even if I lived in a house I might take a hurrication until electricity was restored. Oh and while we have been here there was a false fire alarm and we saw the HFD in action. They went into the building in full suits with oxygen packs. They looked great in their hazmat suits. I'd love to be carried out by one of those big hunky guys. LOL

There is a trash chute right on our floor. One of the condos we stayed in had some bins on each floor for recycling some items.

Felipe....2016 Main?

The noise issue is a good one Calypso but we haven't heard another toilet flush, we haven't heard any of our neighbors sneeze or even their TV's. The only noise I've heard has come the hallway when a late night party came home. Once they were in their condo, I didn't hear anything else. Oh, there has been a dog that sometimes barks on one of the balconys but we are so use to that noise that it really doesn't register. Your sound system could be a problem though LOL

Anonymous said...

Billie, could you truly leave San Miguel and live contentedly in Houston? Do you mind if I ask what you would miss the most about SMA? What do you appreciate the most about Houston? I would love to have your views. My husband and I are on the cusp of a major life-changing decision: selling our high-maintenance albatross of a 5 bedroom house and (1)moving to a condo, or (2)leaving Houston and retiring to San Miguel. We enjoy SMA immensely. Thank you for your wonderful blog, and rest assured that we will be praying for you and your husband.

Billie said...

Sharon, our plan is to stay in San Miguel. We love all our friends and the life style. If we ever felt that we needed another place in Houston as well, I'd definitely look at a small high-rise condo. Or, God forbid, if because of health and/or old age, we had to come back to Houston, we'd look at a high-rise condo.

Sharon, here's the thing, we have made more life changing decisions in the last 10 years than we have in all the years before. I think as we age circumstances change and you have to be ready to move on to the next five year plan. Life is an adventure but a five-bedroom house may be an anchor. Let it go. Then just open doors until you find the right one. I know how you are feeling but I felt so right with the world once we let go of our Houston house and all the stuff we had collected. If I want another house/condo in HOuston, I can go back and I'll furnish it with junk and consignment shops and estate sales and I'll have a ball doing it. Oh, my, I should have written a whole blog about this. You want to talk some more about this, my email is on the right side of the blog.

Anonymous said...

Billie, indeed I will email you soon. Thank you. In the meantime, I encourage you to expand on your inspirational second paragraph. You NAILED it....letting go of the exhausting, expensive-to-maintain house, the collections, the stuff of materialism, the familiar, etc. requires a certain degree of courage and faith. Surely, there are other retirees, near-retirees, or adventurers who would welcome your views. After 6+ decades in Houston, I feel that I have earned the right to say, "Life is too short to live in Houston." While it may be comforting to live near our world-reknown Medical Center, there is much to be said for the soul-soothing pace of beautiful SMA.

Felipe said...

No, I was never high-end. The Houston House on Fannin. Scenes shot inside were in the 1980 movie Urban Cowboy.

Billie said...

Sharon, go back and read my blog from about the middle of April to the middle of June 2006. I talk a lot in there about letting go. That was when we were selling our Houston house and stuff.

Billie said...

Son #1 lived in Houston House for a couple of years.

DanaJ said...

what part of men-o-pause do you and babs not understand? her and the ER doctor in SMA and you and the firemen!

anyway, interesting post and feedback today.


Anonymous said...

Billie, I happily discovered your blog just this month. Yes, I will go back into your archives....can't wait to read about your journey and experiences in letting go. I believe that there are no coincidences/accidents....I was supposed to wander over to your site. Indeed, a meaningful intersection of paths. Synchronicity. God bless.

Billie said...

Dana, menopause or no, a good looking man is a good looking man!

Victoria Block said...

You have good points in here Billie! Finding a safety and good amenity high rise condominium is what many buyers should consider. Having one property is what I'm planning today. Thanks for this informative thoughts anyway.